Recently, a crypto startup calling itself Spice DAO proved it’s worth the money to hire a lawyer. Spice DAO purchased a rare copy of Frank Herbert’s 1965 sci-fi epic Dune at auction for a staggering €2.66 million ($3.04 million) — 100 times its auction estimate of €25,000. After winning the auction, Spice DAO proudly boasted on Twitter of its plans to “1. Make the book public (to the extent permitted by law). 2. Produce an original animated limited series inspired by the book and sell it to a streaming service. 3. Support derivative projects from the community.”
But what Spice DAO didn’t realize (unbelievably) was that if you are buying a copy of a book, you are not also buying the copyright of that book. Ultimately, Spice DAO’s goal was to convert the book into NFTs (non-fungible tokens) by scanning the pages into JPGs and destroying the book — making the digital pages unique as the “only” legal copy of Dune. It even talked of selling as an NFT the video of burning the book as well. Unfortunately for Spice DAO, since they did not purchase the copyright they have no rights to develop derivative works based on the novel and no rights to distribute it, and would likely be sued to smithereens if they tried. So Spice DAO is now the proud owner of exactly 268 pages of very overpriced paper.